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Continued: Down tradition avenue in baseball

  • Article by: PATRICK REUSSE , Star Tribune
  • Last update: July 13, 2013 - 12:53 AM

The pregame tradition at nearly all levels of baseball into the 1980s was for the home team to take batting practice, the visitors to take BP, the home team to come back out for a full round of “infield,’’ ground balls, turning double plays, and the visitors would come back to do the same.

“We do all of that during batting practice now,’’ Gardenhire said. “In fact, the managers were given notification before this season that we can’t have pregame infield, because the field belongs to the promotions people and grounds crew for 30, 35 minutes before the game starts.’’

 

3Pepper

Ballplayers (especially visitors) are notorious for getting to the park early and having much time to kill. A pregame staple was players coming down to the field in midafternoon for a robust game of “pepper’’:

One batter, several fielders 10-15 feet away in a line, making tosses that the batter would hit back at the players, hopefully on one, hard-to-handle hop. Generally, the punishment for booting the ball was to be sent to the end of line, and farther from the chance to be the batter.

Pepper was the enemy of groundskeepers. The game usually took place behind home plate, beating up the grass. “No Pepper’’ started appearing in paint on the short wall behind the plate — the area now used for advertising.

“I haven’t seen a pepper game in a long time,’’ Twins coach Joe Vavra said. “It’s gone.’’

 

4old-timers day

The Yankees are the lone protectors of this tradition in the major leagues. They held the annual old-timers celebration in the Bronx on June 23 for the 67th time.

The zaniest of Yankees’ old-timers celebrations came on July 29, 1978. Earlier in the month, manager Billy Martin had this to say of star player Reggie Jackson and owner George Steinbrenner: “They deserve each other. One’s a born liar and the other’s convicted.’’

Steinbrenner had been convicted of an illegal campaign contribution to Richard Nixon. The Boss forced Martin’s resignation July 24, and then five days later he had public address legend Bob Sheppard make the surprise announcement during old-timers introductions that Martin would return as manager in 1980.

When Martin came running out of the dugout in his No. 1 uniform … well, I was there, covering the Twins, and it was the loudest 15-minute standing ovation in recorded sports history.

The Twins had occasional old-timers games at Met Stadium, including one July 17, 1976, when the attractions included Lyman Bostock Sr. He had played in the Negro Leagues and his son, Lyman Jr., was a rising Twins star.

The twist was that Lyman Sr. was long estranged from his son. He showed up a couple of times when Lyman Jr. made it to the big leagues, tried to introduce himself and his son said: “I’ve never met you. How do I know who you are?’’

The Lyman Sr. of 1976 had a pot belly that stretched his jersey but also a sweet swing that resulted in a couple of hits.

The Twins’ most recent old-timers promotion was the “Legends Game’’ on Sept. 5, 2011, celebrating the 50th anniversary of the first season in Minnesota. If you missed the game, and Kent Hrbek tearing up the turf chasing a pop-up, there’s a chance it is showing on Fox Sports North right now.

  • related content

  • Pepper was a popular warmup game. It required only a little space on the sidelines and involved a handful of players, one hitting the ball, the others fielding it and throwing it back to the batter. Some ballparks ban it now. Not that anyone plays it.

  • Keeping score is one of those baseball traditions that appears to be dying. Still, there are a few fans — many of them older — who still note what each hitter does.

  • Keeping score is one of those baseball traditions that appears to be dying. Still, there are a few fans — many of them older — who still note what each hitter does.

  • old timers game program from twins 1986 game at metrodome

  • old timers game program from twins 1986 game at metrodome

  • baeball cards - illo for pat ruesse story on traditions

  • baeball cards - illo for pat ruesse story on traditions

  • baeball cards - illo for pat ruesse story on traditions

  • Texas Rangers’, from left, Ian Kinsler, Gerald Laird, Hank Blalock and Michael Young share a laugh as they participate in a pepper drill during morning practice at baseball spring training in Surprise, Ariz., Tuesday, March 13, 2007. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez) ORG XMIT: AZTG115

  • Boston Red Sox pitcher Dennis “Oil Can” Boyd pops up an inside pitch during a pepper drill at the first day of workouts at training camp in Winter Haven, Florida on Monday, Feb. 24, 1986. Boyd led the Red Sox in wins with a 15-13 record in 1985. (AP Photo/Peter Southwick) ORG XMIT: APHS412726

  • Maxine Putz, 92, keeps a scorebook whether watching the Twins at home or in person with granddaugher Megan Olson.

  • Frank Quilici, above left, and Jim “Mudcat” Grant, two former Twins, fooled around at a old-timers game in 1976.Former batterymates Yogi Berra, left, and Whitey Ford rode in a golf cart during the Yankees’ old-timers day last month.

  • Hall of Famer catcher Yogi Berra, left, and pitcher Whitey Ford ride in the shade of a golf cart before the New York Yankees 67th annual Old Timers Day baseball game Sunday, June 23, 2013, in New York. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens) ORG XMIT: MIN2013071219200186

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